1517/Not Mutually Exclusive

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Not Mutually Exclusive
Date of Scene: 26 May 2016
Location: Seishou Public School
Synopsis: Makoto happens to catch Kunzite as they're both leaving the Seishou campus for different reasons, and takes the opportunity to alert him to possible problems on the horizon. Things that are not mutually exclusive: accuracy and insensitivity. Good intentions and dark-energy-fueled bad ideas. Kunzite's social life and twelve-year-olds?
Cast of Characters: Makoto Kino, Kunzite

Makoto Kino has posed:
If she could, Makoto would leave school with Usagi and Ami every day, but there are times when the schedules simply don't match up, when Ami has swim team or Usagi has detention or someone simply has something to do. Today was Mako's turn; she had cleaning duty after classes. The boy who was supposed to be assigned with her ditched, not that she really minded much. It would've stung more back when she first transferred to Seishou - today, it mostly just meant that there was nobody in her way while she cleaned.

So this afternoon Makoto is leaving school on her own, carrying her bag tipped absently back over her shoulder as she walks through the front gates. She's preoccupied, distracted, and has nowhere in particular to be; her steps are unhurried, eyes mostly on the sidewalk in front of her.

At least until movement at the periphery of her vision catches enough of her attention to glance that way. Then she catches herself, blinking with surprised recognition. "Ku-- Kazuo-san," she says, stumbling over the name that she knows but has never really had occasion to use until just now.
Kunzite has posed:
It's not, granted, the first time that a certain white-haired teenager has been lurking around Seishou after school. It's just that usually he comes as an easily-ignored background escort, making certain that Mamoru isn't attacked by space aliens or evil flowers or infatuated botanists until Usagi and he have each other (literally) in hand, and once those two are connected the older boy can fade out of sight entirely. Maybe leaving. Maybe watching from a distance. Maybe scoping out the school for energy drains or for unconscious students. Whatever it is that he does in his free time.

Two days ago, he even met up with Naru and escorted her off somewhere, whatever that was about.

But either way, he's always there with someone, and out of sight as soon as possible. It's entirely plausible that Makoto might never actually have had the chance to see him even on the occasions he has been there. And even if she had, this time he's there by himself. After school is out. Well after school is out.

Today is, apparently, not the day that Kunzite -- Kazuo -- is going to stop being creepy.

Not that he's making an effort at it; he actually turns his head enough that Makoto can see him glancing in her direction, then detours enough to meet her. "Makoto-san." Matching her level of formality, but with just a little caution around the edges of the syllables. Her surname's always been easier for him, or her other name, when he calls her anything at all. Possibly it says something about what he thinks of her. The girl who was able to blaze through his own madness, through at least one and maybe two of his brothers'. "Is everything all right?"

He should really learn eventually that these days, people say things like 'hello' instead of presuming that the only reason they'd be addressed is for trouble cropping up. Maybe he'll get around to that next year.
Makoto Kino has posed:
At least she remembered his alias. At least she knew it to call him at all; "fall back on embarrassing pet names" is not the option with Kunzite that it is with Nephrite. Still, Mako pulls a momentarily wry and self-conscious sort of face. "I feel like I should be asking you that." Reflexively she glances around for signs of Mamoru, even though she knows perfectly well that Mamoru is in no condition to be meeting Usagi after school even if she were here to meet.

The lack of a 'hello' does not seem to be a particular concern as Mako's eyes come back to Kunzite, regarding him curiously. "What brings you out here today?"
Kunzite has posed:
'Embarrassing pet names' and 'Kunzite' might actually cause a matter-antimatter reaction. Hard to tell. There is no Mamoru in evidence; also no Usagi in evidence. No Naru or Ami, for that matter, either. A mysterious lack of people, despite Kazuo's answer. "A friend wanted to ask my help with a project. She's a few years below you, I think. Two or three."
Makoto Kino has posed:
"Oh." It takes Makoto a couple of seconds to process the discovery that Kunzite has a friend two of three grades down from her. "I see. Are you on your way back now, then?" It's an easy enough assumption to make since whoever this friend is, she's nowhere in evidence now. "Or headed somewhere else?"

She only waits a beat or so for his answer before Makoto glances away, letting out a sighing breath. "--actually, if you don't have somewhere else to be right away, could I ask you for a favor?"
Kunzite has posed:
The concept of Kunzite having social connections with a twelve-year-old is only somewhat staggeringly weird. It could be worse. He could have said 'a kitsune wanted to talk to me about a vampire.'

Actually, that would probably have been easier to cope with.

The start of a shake of his head is enough that it might prompt Makoto to go on by itself. Either way, it's her last question that he actually has time to answer out loud. "What do you need?"
Makoto Kino has posed:
With the invitation thus extended, Makoto falls uncomfortably quiet, not really sure how to start and (too late, now) not entirely sure she should. She temporizes briefly by starting to walk again, glancing back to Kunzite to see if he's following or not. It doesn't make a lot of sense to just keep standing around outside the school, in any case.

This doesn't kill much time, though, and soon enough Mako is left with little choice but to forge ahead through the door she's opened. "Naru-chan accidentally got a dose of dark energy," she says. "It might not be enough to do anything, but I feel like we should probably keep an eye on her for a while just to make sure... and you probably know more than most of us what to be looking for."
Kunzite has posed:
There is no 'if' in that; Kazuo's not too close, in case of any watchers who might be inclined to speculate as well as merely spectate, but he keeps within conversational range. Walking. That way.

The farther they go, the more the silence tells him. What Makoto tells him, though -- that's worse.

"Is there a reason that we're taking a watch-and-wait stance," he inquires, "instead of talking to her and having your mutual friend make certain there's no problem?" Granted, that answer might simply be 'conserving power in case of attack,' or 'Escalation hurts like hell.' But there might also be another answer entirely.
Makoto Kino has posed:
Makoto promptly grimaces uncomfortably: ergh. "The situation's a little complicated," she says, watching the ground in front of her feet as she walks. "The dark energy was in chocolates that Agera made for Ami-chan. He said it wasn't enough to hurt her and that he assumed she'd know it was there automatically."

Unconsciously Mako's strides gain length and energy, becoming a little more brisk with agitation as she thinks about this. "Ami-chan didn't think it was enough to be dangerous either, as long as she didn't have too many at a time - it's my fault, too, I shouldn't have let it go. Putting dark energy in food is the kind of crap the Dark Kingdom did!"

She catches herself there, sneaks a guilty look sidelong.

"...anyway," she continues with a sigh, "Ami-chan's getting rid of the stuff now, but she gave one to Naru-chan before she realized how much it was affecting her judgment. I'm sure she's thinking about how to fix it, too. She feels really bad. So I don't want to go freaking anyone out unnecessarily."

Or, to put another way, Makoto has every faith that Ami will take steps to correct her error; if Mako calls the alarm, it'll feel too much like casting blame. But she can't stand back and do nothing, either.
Kunzite has posed:
Well. Makoto's not wrong.

Kazuo, when she sneaks that sidelong guilty look, is looking straight forward, watching their path while Mako's distracted by her story. There's no flicker of expression. Apparently imperturbable.

(There might have been more expression if he hadn't already started putting volunteer hours in at that orphanage. Maybe.)

"Agera's not an idiot," he says. "He has blind spots, largely related to his isolation, but he's not an idiot. He wouldn't lie about not expecting it to hurt her; it'd be too easy for her to analyze the stuff and spot the problem. But she was still affected." 'Agera' is, indeed, shorn of honorific, bluntly and rawly straightforward. Ami he simply avoids the question of, there, doesn't name directly at all. "So. Either his condition blurred the definition of 'hurt' for him, or he didn't expect the toxins to accumulate in her system. That's possible. He's probably accustomed to being able to process it selectively. It's the same blind spot that made him expect her to know it was there. But it does suggest that it might have been accumulating to some extent.

"Osaka-san doesn't have the same resilience, and has had previous exposure. So you're right to worry; it's likely to be nothing, but there is the possibility of an effect building up over time."

A couple more paces; thinking, perhaps. But he hasn't entirely answered her question yet. "I didn't see any anomalous behavior in her the last time I saw her, two days ago; but we were in a structured situation, in a class. There were specific expectations about behavior, that could mask trouble. She also tends to be a little quieter around us, more withdrawn. Tsukino-san would spot any changes in her behavior faster. But Tsukino-san wouldn't be particularly subtle about watching. It may not matter. She has friends. Low doses of dark energy ... people give themselves those all the time. Score badly on a test, embarrass yourself in front of a crush, get cut off in a line and get angry. You recover over time. Steady out. Laugh with your friends about it, or commiserate, or watch them get angry on your behalf until you realize that it wasn't important. She may very well have cleared whatever she was given already."

Or not. And that's the problem, isn't it.
Makoto Kino has posed:
The lack of expression on his face just makes Makoto look guiltier. "Sorry," she murmurs, focusing on the sidewalk in front of her feet again. "I said something insensitive just now."

Her turn to be quiet for several paces, some of the agitated energy subsiding from her movements. Some, but not all. "I'm sure Agera wouldn't give Ami-chan enough dark energy to - to make her sick or turn her into a monster or anything like that. I'm not sure it'd bother him much if the dark energy made her more interested in being his girlfriend."

Suddenly without quite realizing it she's stopped walking. Her hands clench into fists at her sides. "I can't separate it. I can't tell if I don't trust him because he's really not good for her, or if it's just because I don't like him. She keeps asking me if I think she shouldn't go out with him, and - Ami-chan had my back when I was trying to save Nephrite. If she'd told me she thought it was too dangerous, I'd have listened, and then what would've happened?"

Makoto looks up now, blinks like someone walking out of a dark building into the bright light of midday. "...and that's probably more than you wanted to know," she sighs, reaching up to rub at the back of her neck. "For all I know, Ami-chan's already talked to Usagi-chan about it. I just want to... make sure we don't let anything slip past." Any more than it already has, anyway.
Kunzite has posed:
"Not insensitive. Only accurate."

There's another several paces before Kunzite adds, "Dark energy wouldn't make her more interested in being his girfriend. Not in the long run. One of the things that it cannot do is make someone more likely to care, more likely to connect, rather than less. If anything, it would make her care less about him. He may, of course, be blinded to that."

-- and then she's stopped walking. He catches himself, sharp, and turns toward her. Watches her, steady and just as expressionless. Listens through the fuming, and then listens through the easing of it.

"If she keeps asking you the same question," he says, "then she already has her answer. She either doesn't like it, or doesn't want to admit it to herself; she's looking for a way around it, or a way to displace it onto someone else. But whatever her answer is, she knows."

He glances away from her. "There's a simpler reason for you not to trust him. Even if he has the best of intent, so long as he's toying with dark energy, there's no predicting when he may become untrustworthy. And he's refusing to admit that it can happen. He's lying to himself. That leaves everything else he says and does unstable. With Nephrite it was simpler. You knew you couldn't trust him. You knew why. And you knew him well enough to spot the lies."
Makoto Kino has posed:
"I'm pretty sure you're giving me a little too much credit there." Makoto smiles lopsidedly as she says it, though, seeming somewhat reassured by Kunzite's take on the matter. "Well, it turned out all right, so who's counting?"

She squares her shoulders a little and starts walking again, carrying her bag at her side now instead of slung back over her shoulder. "I'd like to say that if we're lucky nothing will happen and Naru-chan won't need escalated or anything, but our luck's not usually that good, is it? Anyway, it's technically my fault originally, so I feel like I should at least take some responsibility."

Mako's nose wrinkles, a faint grimace curling her mouth. "I still can't believe he gave her chocolates laced with dark energy in the first place," she complains. "I mean, jeez. At least when you were made of dark energy you weren't that petty."
Kunzite has posed:
Her fault originally. Kazuo's eyebrows twitch, but he turns to keep pace all the same. "If you're secretly Agera in disguise, Nephrite is going to be deeply dismayed."

Several paces more, and there's a glance aside to Mako. It's a couple more still before he points out, "Of course I didn't think of chocolates. When I was made of dark energy, I didn't eat." Except once. And that was Apatite's fault. And, well. Ice cream.

He has no excuses for the kitten pictures, though.

And then, tacked on as afterthought: "Does the pr-- does Tsukino-san know, yet?"
Makoto Kino has posed:
Makoto's face is momentarily a study in wry discomfiture. "If I were secretly Agera," she replies without thinking, "I'd have to punch myself in the face."

A little shake of her head flicks her ponytail behind her as she walks on. "That's not what I meant, though. He was trying to one-up the Valentine's chocolates I made for Nephrite. I gave some of the test batch to Ami-chan, and - the point is, he got the idea from me. As though it even works like that."

Does Usagi know - that question seems to deflate Makoto a little. "...I'm not sure," she admits after a momentary hesitation. "I think Ami-chan intends to explain what happened to her, but she might've needed a little time to work up to it."
Kunzite has posed:
Valentine's chocolates she made for Nephrite. Oddly enough, despite having assisted with honey and rose petals, this is somehow not a story that Kazuo has head. He glances sidelong at her, then shakes his own head. There is not enough hair yet to do anything notable, though it's acquired enough length not to be fuzz anymore. Growing back not at lightning speed, but faster than it might. Ami and Usagi, then. "If the two of them have talked, then the problem might have been solved already. But we should probably make sure."
Makoto Kino has posed:
Notably, Nephrite was still with the Dark Kingdom around the time of Valentine's Day. But Makoto doesn't feel the need to elaborate - certainly not right now.

Instead, she simply nods. "Right," she agrees, firm on this point despite a certain lack of enthusiasm. "I'll check with Ami-chan. One way or another, we'll make sure nothing bad happens to Naru-chan."

She breathes out - and then, turning a smile alongside towards Kunzite, Makoto lightens her tone and very purposefully changes the subject. "So aside from all that, how have things been going? Anybody set anything on fire since the last time I was over?"

His brothers' penchant for shenanigans potentially involving arson: somehow, a much more pleasant topic of conversation for the rest of the walk home.